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Home Fires Are Devastating to Families Involved


When fire breaks out in someone’s home, it can be one of the worst moments of their life. The American Red Cross offers a helping hand to those affected.

In Omaha, Nebraska, Angela Leslie and her family learned just how devastating a fire in someone’s home can be. She was attending a class and her mother was watching her children when a neighbor came to the door and told them there was a fire and to get out quick.

Leslie rushed home, not knowing what her family would do, where they would go. Red Cross help came in little ways - the tiny flip-flops for four-year-old Mitchai who ran out of the house without shoes on; the stuffed animals and coloring books, crayons, bubbles and activities to keep the children occupied while mom worked out the details with the Red Cross.

“It feels so good to have somewhere to stay so I can figure out what to do next,” Leslie said. “We had nowhere to go and now I can think. I really appreciate the Red Cross and their help. I plan to give blood to thank them. Someday when I’m out of school and a doctor I will become a volunteer to help the Red Cross like they helped me.”

During Fire Prevention Week, the Red Cross reminds everyone of the steps they should take if a fire breaks out in their home. Most important is to GET OUT, STAY OUT and CALL 9-1-1 or your local emergency phone number. Other safety steps include:

  • If closed doors or handles are warm, go out another way. Never open doors that are warm to the touch.
  • Crawl low under smoke.
  • Meet household members outside and then call for help.
  • If smoke, heat or flames block your exit routes, stay in the room with doors closed. Place a wet towel under the door and call the fire department or 9-1-1. Open a window and wave a brightly colored cloth or flashlight to signal for help.

Remember to use a portable fire extinguisher ONLY if you have been trained by the fire department and in the following conditions:

  • The fire is confined to a small area, and is not growing.
  • The room is not filled with smoke.
  • Everyone has exited the building.
  • The fire department has been called.
  • Remember the word PASS when using a fire extinguisher.
  • Pull the pin and hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing away from you.
  • Aim low. Point the extinguisher at the base of the fire.
  • Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.
  • Sweep the nozzle from side to side.

The Red Cross Fire Prevention and Safety Checklist offers more information on how to keep your household prepared should a fire break out in the home. Downloadable fact sheets are also available on how to be fire safe over the holidays, how to avoid home heating and cooking fires, candle safety, proper use of smoke alarms and teaching your children what to do in the event of a fire.